christian culture

I Love America, But My Country Is Heaven.

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“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” – Philippians 3:20

Folks, I love America.  I mean, Let’s be honest, it’s freaking awesome.

I am the proud granddaughter of a heroic Iwo Jima Marine, faithful voter, and my home decor is Americana. I am apple pie, cheeseburgers, the second amendment, country music, and football (the real American pastime).  I tear up every time the National Anthem is sung, and lose it completely when the families of fallen soldiers carry their photos in our local parades.  I love this place.  This place where I live as an ambassador to my true homeland: the Kingdom of Christ.

Social Media is both a blessing and a curse.  The benefits of being connected to my family and friends comes with the high price of having intimate knowledge of everyone’s politics.  It’s like the infamous Thanksgiving-table heated political debate, but every day, all day.  And if you spend a lot of time on Facebook, like I shamelessly do, it gets old fast. Even though I am a conservative Christian, a lot of what I have grown weary of are posts and comments from other conservative Christians. (This is where I really stick my foot in it)

One day, while scrolling through the feed, a question hit me out of no where like a ton of bricks.

Heavenly Citizenship“Does Jesus really care about our gun rights?”

“What about the right to collect rain water on our own property or graze our cattle on federal land?” 

“What about immigration? Does Jesus care?”

It really started to bother me.  I used to love watching Fox News because those were my people.  But I just stopped feelin’ it when I couldn’t see the Kingdom in any of it.  Maybe they weren’t my people after all. I used to read every article posted about which agency was infringing on so-and-so’s constitutional rights, and feel overcome with a passionate, “Oh no they didn’t!”, but then I slowly became disarmed when I didn’t see the Gospel in any of it.  Maybe it wasn’t my fight, after all.  Over time I began to notice a disinterest in politics all together, which was a huge shift from where I had come.

About a year ago I actually posted about my newfound disinterest and was met with some surprising comments.  One of which was that I needed to be political because Jesus was. Was Jesus political?  I was confused, so I had to go to the Word and see exactly where this was.  And you know what?  They were right.  Jesus was political.  But not in the way referenced.

When Jesus talked about government, He talked about His government. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world – John 18:36

Even though His own people were being occupied, over-taxed, and mistreated by the powerful godless Roman Empire, Jesus’ message to the people was always about His own Kingdom, and when asked specifically about an issue pertaining to local government, He replied, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus never tried to reform government. He wants to reform our hearts.

I love our great constitution.  I wish our current leaders felt the same.  I believe it is a beautiful document with roots stemmed deep in biblical principals that when followed, brings great success, security, and freedom to the people.  But such security and assurance of a certain way of life has caused God’s people to shift our reliance off of Him, and on to the system we’ve created.  Great as it may be, no government is going to last forever.  Jesus’ government is going to replace them all.  Even America.

So what is going to happen when that which holds our security begins to fade, is attacked, abandoned, or destroyed?

Our hope is not in the constitution, our hope is in Christ alone.  If we all wake up tomorrow to the confiscation of our weapons, open borders, and the enforcement of socialism, I will not be shaken, because I am nothing more than an ambassador of the homeland.

What about my rights? “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

What about my property? “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” – Psalm 24:1
What about the American dream? “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

What about all the Muslims coming into our country?

Yep.  They’re coming.  If it’s of grave concern to you, just pick up a book or two on how to share the gospel with them.  The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. The truth is, there are thousands of Christians living in the Middle East who are not afforded the luxury of living a life free of Islamic exposure.  So let’s bring the refugees in and be ambassadors of Christ to them.

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:12

So, if it’s not upholding the constitution of the United States or our conservative way of life, then what is the good fight?

If you were to read through the New Testament, some repeated themes start to stand out.

  1.  Keep Jesus as the head.
  2. Love/ serve people
  3. Make disciples
  4. Hold fast to solid doctrine/ teaching
  5. Live by the Spirit.
  6. Minister to the ‘least of these’/ widows/ orphans / poor (slaves, unborn, oppressed)

This is the fight.  This is Kingdom work.

But what about when the law of man in contrary to God’s law? I’m glad you asked!  I love this response from GotQuestions about Acts 5:29

“From this, it is clear that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey the law of the land. As soon as the law of the land contradicts God’s command, we are to disobey the law of the land and obey God’s law. However, even in that instance, we are to accept the government’s authority over us. This is demonstrated by the fact that Peter and John did not protest being flogged, but instead rejoiced that they suffered for obeying God (Acts 5:40-42).”

If our lives, our identity, and what we give ourselves to is wrapped up in who we are in Christ and in our Heavenly citizenship, then we never have to be shaken by the tumultuous changing tide of the world around us.  We will, like Paul did, long for our true home, but understand that our time here is valuable, belonging to the Lord for His work and His Kingdom and use our time to advance His purpose.

I love America.  But my country is Heaven.

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:19 – 26

Why Purity Pledges Don’t Work

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We’ve all been there.

That summer camp, youth conference, or special guest speaker at church that passionately communicates God’s best for your life and body, telling you their special secret to enjoying the great married sex life that God made you to have, and the the sure consequences that will come to those who chose not wait.  The atmosphere is worshipful.  Your Pastor and leaders are all there with you. You’ve spent 4 days on a remote campground free from worldly distractions while a whole church full of people back home have been praying for you.

Then, the invitation comes.  Will you make a decision to wait?  Will you take the pledge, promise the Lord, and sign the form?  There’s an awesome “pure” rubber wrist-band and/or wallet card in it for you if you do, in addition to the guarantee of an awesome future marriage, of course.  You stand up and take the vow.  I mean, who could pass all that up?

There’s just one problem.  This whole process has absolutely nothing to do with reality.

It’s not a bad thing, or even a thing that should be stopped.  But the process by which these pledges have been “sold” and implemented for decades is not only ineffective,  but can actually contribute to destructive sexual decisions.  Not because of what is said, but because of what isn’t said or done.  And those missing pieces are huge, if not the most important.

1.  The pledge is typically where the conversation ends, even though desire and hormones don’t end there.  We too often look at having the talk with our kids as something we “just get it over with it, then we’re done.”  But we’re never done.  You can’t ensure the sexual health of your child or student in one 30 minute sermon once a year, then ignore the fact that they have a sin nature the other 364 days.  Once we begin to have honest conversations about sexual issues with our students, those conversations shouldn’t stop.

2.  The timing sucks. It’s really easy to commit to starting a diet at the end of a Thanksgiving meal when you are stuffed and can’t stomach the thought of more food, but come Monday, when your co-worker walks in with KFC and fills the office with the aroma of crispy chicken, your diet commitment is a whole different story.  In the same way, I don’t often hear young people say at the end of an emotionally charged service, “You know, after everything that God has done for me this weekend and all that I have experienced, I still think I’m going to have sex before I get married”.  Of course they don’t say that.  They can no more fathom it then a stuffed stomach can fathom a cheeseburger.  I have to wonder if that is the time or place to bring that up at all.  What if “the talk” was instead a regular part of ongoing discipleship?  What if it happened when real life and real temptation was happening?

3.  It gives people a false sense of invincibility.

“Oh, you want to wait until marriage to have sex?  That’s great.  What’s your plan“?

“Plan?  Well…I signed this promise card and wrote a letter to my future spouse”.

Face palm  “You need to establish your boundaries ahead of time and surround yourself with people who are going to be able to help you carry those boundaries out.”

“That’s not necessary, I really love Jesus”.

Oh good for you.  Did He also create you without hormones”?

A look at 2 Samuel 11 shows us something interesting.  King David, “A man after God’s own heart”, sees a married woman bathing on her roof, has his people bring her, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband to try to cover it up, and is busted by the prophet Nathan.  Waaaaa??????  The passage starts off saying, “In a time when kings went off to war, David was looking out on his balcony” (or something).  If the kings were supposed to be at war, and David was king, why was he at home on his balcony?

Sin often begins in us when we’re in places we shouldn’t be.  Many people, who earnestly love Jesus and want to live for him break boundaries because we trust in our own righteousness and create an opportunity.  Never, of course, intending for it to lead to sin.  But the enemy of our souls is ‘crouching like a lion’ and never misses out on a good opportunity.  And all that righteousness of ours? The bible says our righteousness is like fifthly rags before the Lord, and for good reason.  It can’t be trusted to keep us from sin, because we’re sinners.

The hope of saving yourself for marriage is only as good as your boundaries and the accountability you seek out, no matter how many pledges you sign or how big your purity ring is.

4.  It creates shame when the mark is missed.  Imagine for a minute that you are a 19 year-old college sophomore, away at school, and even though you had pledged to wait, you’ve recently started having sex with your boyfriend.  You want to talk to someone about it because inside, you still want to please the Lord, but who do you go to?  The youth leader who was standing next to you when you signed your card and told you how proud of you she was?  The speaker who said that the only way to have a good marriage is to wait?  Your parents?  Probably not. The shame from not living up to your commitment can be so strong that many young people just stop going to church all together.  Now, youth leaders, pastors, and parents are exactly the people to go to when we’re struggling with any kind of sin.  But the famous 30-minute “purity sermon” can’t establish the relationship that is needed to be a safe place for people to share their struggles.  We have to clearly communicate to our young singles that 1.  There is nothing they can say or do that is going to make us be ashamed of them and 2. There is no such thing as “too late”.

My husband and I were engaged for 18 months, which turned out to be about 12 months too long, if you catch my drift.  As the “poster children” of each of our youth groups, we had made enough of these pledges that I could have made sleeves out of my “Pure” arm bands.  But because all of the things above were missing, those were just words with good intentions. If we really want this generation of Christians to experience God’s best for their relationships, we have to change the conversation.  We have to be involved, honest and transparent.  We have to both continue the conversation in discipleship, and establish ourselves as safe places.  We have to talk about the how-not-to and the restoration when it happens, because purity doesn’t stop at “I do”.  It’s a process we’ll walk out forever.

Like what you read?  Then check these out, too!

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Intolerance Takes the Cake

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One of my happy places is in my kitchen, baking.  I started making fondant cakes a couple of years ago and get a lot of requests from family, friends, and co-workers to provide the desserts for their events.  I also get a lot of “You should really think about making this a business” comments.  I’d love to get paid to bake.  To me, it is art.  My heart, soul, energy, and creativity all go into each one and when it is finished, it’s a little painful to watch the knife make that first cut.

But this blog isn’t about cakes. I wish it could be. Everyone likes cakes.  Instead, it is about something that everyone likes to get up in arms about.  I try to always be considerate of others feelings, hearts, and experiences when writing, and taking a moment to pause, and put myself in another’s shoes before responding usually ends with me holding my tongue all together.  But if I shy away from a controversial topic for the sake of keeping peace, what does that make me? 

I did start the process of obtaining the proper licensing to make and sell cakes from my home, when something stopped me in my tracks and launched me into a philosophical journey on my own.

It was this story:  A Christian photographer in New Mexico who refused to shoot a lesbian wedding ceremony and was sued.  She lost, and lost big.  Her business, reputation, and finances destroyed.  That story was followed by this one and this one, and got me to thinking, “As a whole-Bible believing Christian, What would I do if asked to make a wedding cake for a gay couple?”  Honestly, I didn’t know.  I had never even considered it before. 

This blog isn’t about the morality or theological correctness or incorrectness of homosexuality.  That’s a conversation for a face-to-face coffee date.  This is more about the question, “What would happen to me if I said ‘no?'”  It’s about rights, and freedom, both of the homosexual couple and of the religious person.  These stories beg the question, “Can rights and freedoms exist for both parties harmoniously?”  I don’t know, but when you read these articles, it’s not looking too good.

 Semantics

I love people.  Short people, tall people, gay people, straight people, white people, black people, Asian people, people in the womb and outside of it, pro-choice people, pro-life people, people who live behind white picket fences and those on the streets, democrat, republican, it doesn’t matter.  If you’ve got human DNA, it’s hard for me to see you as anything other than a masterpiece of an indescribable creator, and to see myself as anything more that just as flawed as anyone.

So when words like “Hate” and “Bigot” are hurled at those of us who view a lifestyle as contrary to God’s design, we call foul.  Hate? That hurts my heart.  It’s such a powerful word that, much like love, has been grossly over and misused, and unlike love, has been brilliantly used as a marketing semantic to sway public opinion and slowly strip the rights away from those who hold the Bible to be truth.  Yes, we absolutely want to eradicate hate.  But real hate.  When we eradicate disagreement, we become 1930s Germany, and no one wins. Like I say to my children, “We need to use our words properly”.

The Double Standard

Christians don’t have a perfect tract record for the treatment of others, I’ll be the first to agree.  And the reality of those specific examples in history saddens me, too.  But it seems as though the pendulum of tolerance is in full swing to the extreme opposite side.  I would not expect or fight to require a Hindu to serve me a cheeseburger.  Religious based Carols have been removed from public school Christmas programs so as not to offend the Atheist, and the student whose gender identity is still undecided can choose which sports team he or she wants to play for.  Consideration and accommodation is being made to respect the feelings and convictions of every group except for the Christian.

The LGBT community has fought so hard for so long to get to where they are today: the right to be who they are and live what they believe.  But the freedoms that are held so dear to many of them are the same ones that some are fighting to take away from others.  Mutual respect means it goes both ways.  I respect your sexual orientation, and you respect my beliefs.  

“Coexist” is a popular word used by those taking up these efforts, when forcing Christians to violate their beliefs is actually the opposite of coexisting – it’s forced conformity.  Where is the tolerance for these people and their faith?  Or is open mindedness only for those with one point of view?

Human nature and Utopia

My state of Washington recently voted to allow gay marriage.  On this issue, I didn’t vote.  I just left it blank.  I didn’t know what to put down.  While my biblical beliefs tell me that homosexuality is a sin, I also don’t feel that it is my job to stop people from sinning.  It would be impossible to stop people from sinning, I can’t even stop myself.  A “yes” vote would be condoning said sin, while a “no” vote would be saying that what other people chose to do is somehow up to me.  Since I didn’t agree with either, I just moved on to the next bubble.

It doesn’t bother me if you’re gay.  I think a person is defined by so much more than being gay or straight, and if you want to get married, then go do it, but I expect to be afforded the same respect and not required to use my art to celebrate the occasion.  How is that not discrimination? I’ll tell you: If a gay person asks me to make a cake for a birthday, celebration of a promotion, or just about anything else, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  A person who hated gays wouldn’t do that.  Bakers like me don’t want to turn these orders down because the customer is gay, but because the wedding is.  Are events now a protected class?  Race, religion, gender, and church potlucks?

But I also understand the fear of regression.  If businesses are allowed to refuse service to anyone in the name of religious freedom the potential for abuse is great.  People on the left side of the political spectrum tend to see legislation in favor of protecting religious freedom and their minds go straight back to a wild west culture where minorities and homosexuals lose out on jobs or opportunities just because of who they are.  There are people out there who aren’t wanting to adhere to their faith, but truly do hate, and would take advantage in a regulationless world, I’m not denying that that exists.  And that is unacceptable, too. So what should be done?  Where then is the balance, or are we all destined to step on each others toes, forever infringing on one anothers liberties?

Utopia will always be fiction as long as human nature is at play.  We could be adults about it.  We could agree to disagree.  We could understand that offenses are a part of life and move on to any of the other 10,000 photographers in the phone book, but if the cases mentioned above set the precedent, I can’t say that I’m hopeful.

Your comments and feedback are welcome!  Please be civil and respectful when commenting.

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